Matchday six looked like the perfect situation for a let down. Either Arsenal would fail to win with PSG doing the same. Or, the Parisians would win, Arsenal would draw or lose, and pick up a few knocks.
Instead, Arsene Wenger made a few changes, and the Gunners picked up where they left off against West Ham.
Free flowing offensive play, one touch passing, movement off the ball, and clinical in front of goal. This is what we were seeing early in the season, and after a brief hiatus, that beautiful footy is back.
Going into the match, Arsene Wenger, the supporters, and the players will have known the chances were slim. Certainly Ludogorets even on their most perfect day couldn’t get anything away to PSG. Right?!
Well, as I mentioned in the preview, an Arsenal win coupled with a draw in Paris was on the cards. Did I really think the second part of that prediction would happen? Of course not, but anything is possible in footy. I mean, who thought Lucas Perez would have as many UCL goals this season in two appearances as Spu*s have in the group stage!?
See what I mean, anything is possible.
Xhaka & Rambo Aren’t The Best Partnership, At Least Right Now
When I saw the teamsheet prior to kickoff, I was pleased with a few choices to rotate the squad, but I was a bit curious to see how this partnership would work out. Xhaka’s form has been improving the last few weeks, and you can tell he’s getting a lot more comfortable on and off the ball. I actually enjoy watching him drop deep into the midfield to organize play. That first pass out of the back that he provides is fantastic. He has great vision, and very rarely lets a pass go astray. Proof of that was his 94% pass completion.
Alongside Ramsey, I just don’t see that chemistry. Obviously they haven’t had many chances in a match to get used to each other, but at the moment, I feel like Arsene may be forcing the issue.
Rambo is far from top form. You can tell by just watching his movements on and off the ball.
I watched the match again, and made sure to watch him closely. There were a number of times where he’d get sucked out of the midfield, leaving Xhaka to fend for himself. He’d either get caught holding onto the ball too long, or he’d lose it in transition because of a dumb decision.
Xhaka on the other hand is very much like Coquelin when it comes to having the ball. He doesn’t over complicate things, keeps it simple, but he also gives you a little bit of that vision that Santi offers. You’d think putting that together with Ramsey would work well, but again, I just don’t see it happening unless Ramsey is in top form. At the moment, he looks to be suffering from a European Championship hangover.
Against Stoke at the weekend, I think Xhaka is a must start, but I’d honestly play Coquelin alongside the Swiss international. Xhaka can have more freedom to roam as he did against West Ham, while Coquelin has the pace and ability to just break up play. Ok Xhaka, I got the ball back, here you go.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the Welshman? I certainly can’t be the only seeing this, right?!
Alexis & Ozil Continued Their Fine Form
As the season goes on, you can just see the confidence oozing out of these guys. Their passing back and fourth is brilliant to watch, and we got another glimpse of it at St. Jakobs Park.
It’s almost like they are playing with their eyes shut, and somehow know exactly where the other one is going to be. Similar to a game of Marco / Polo, but instead, it’s Mesut / Alexis.
The link-up play for the second goal was outstanding. Quick one touch passing, through ball to Kieran Gibbs who’s also growing in confidence, and Lucas Perez tucks it home. Iwobi’s goal was very similar as well. This time, great vision from Alexis to spot out Ozil’s run into the box, and the German international made it look so damn easy. I honestly thought he was going to put his foot through that, but instead, lays it off to Iwobi. Well Freaken Done!
With both of them playing at this level, who knows how far Arsenal can go on the European stage as well as in the domestic competitions. But on the flip side, with both of them in the middle of contract negotiations, they are making it real tough for the board to not give them a significant pay increase. Now, I’m not saying Arsenal should commit to paying them something astronomical like £300k per week, but I think if they are both asking for around £250k per week, give them the contract to sign right now.
These guys not only perform on the pitch, but it would also show that Arsenal are ready to compete. In addition, having both of them locked in would influence any future signings to make their way to North London. Oh, you’ve locked down Alexis and Ozil for the foreseeable future? Of course I want to come to Arsenal. Where do I sign?
From a Champions League perspective, we won’t officially know who the next opponent is until Monday. But for now, we can at least make some assumptions, or pray, whichever you prefer.
My main fear is that since Benfica finished second in their group, Arsenal will get them, which would completely rip my heart into pieces. So, I’m going to have to make a special request to the guys pulling the balls out of the bowl. At least for the sake of my health, don’t let this happen.
The other scary thing is that Bayern Munich are out there lurking in the open water. We just can’t seem to get away from them, or Barcelona.
Thankfully Ludogorets stepped up in Paris and allowed Arsenal to avoid the Blaugrana. Frankly, given the way Bayern Munich are playing this season with Ancelotti in the hot seat, I wouldn’t be as concerned going up against them. But, I’d prefer to not have to play them in the first knockout stage again! It would be nice to get a more favorable matchup.
Yes, I know Arsenal blew their chance in 2015 against Monaco, but apart from that, we’ve had to take on some big dogs early on.
If all goes according to my plan, maybe we could get Copenhagen after they finish second in their group? Bayer Leverkusen maybe? I’d even be ok with anyone from Group H (Juventus, Sevilla, Lyon). Just don’t give us Bayern Munich, Benfica, or Real Madrid. Anyone else, we can handle.